US Prepares for Assad’s Fall
Panetta: Syria 'spinning out of control'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2012 3:26 AM CDT
Updated Jul 19, 2012 7:51 AM CDT
This satellite image shows the Qabun neighborhood of Damascus after heavy fighting.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
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(Newser) – Describing the suicide blast that killed Bashar al-Assad's security chiefs yesterday as a turning point, American officials are now getting ready for the Syrian regime's collapse, reports the New York Times. Pentagon officials have urged the Israelis not to attack Syrian weapons facilities, fearing that such a move would allow Assad to rally support. President Obama spoke to Vladimir Putin yesterday, but the Russian leader once again refused to allow Assad to be pushed from power. But Obama and Putin "agreed on the need to support a political transition as soon as possible" to end the violence, said a White House statement.

Fierce fighting is raging for a sixth day in Damascus, sometimes in sight of the presidential palace, and Assad's whereabouts are a mystery, reports Reuters. "This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called on the world to put the maximum pressure on Assad to step down. Russia's foreign minister described the battles in the capital—which rebels call the "liberation" of Damascus—"the decisive fight." A human rights group says at least 214 people died in the Syrian conflict yesterday, including 60 who were killed when a helicopter gunship attacked a funeral procession in a southern suburb of Damascus, reports the BBC.